Thursday, July 31, 2014

Writing the Past has Moved!

Dear Readers, 

The Writing the Past blog has moved to a new website!

Click the link below to be redirected:

Be sure to subscribe for e-mail updates to get all the latest blog posts on ancient and medieval history and historical fiction!

Thank you, 

Adam Alexander Haviaras

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writing the Past is Moving Camps!

Hello everyone! I hope your summer is going well and that you are all getting the chance to travel to some amazing places and read some amazing books.

A lot has been happening on my end of things, lots of writing, new ideas, and some summer travelling.

The biggest thing I wanted to share with all of you today is that the Writing the Past blog will be moving to a new, more permanent outpost.

These past weeks I’ve been building the Eagles and Dragons Publishing website and now, it’s finally complete. The ditches are dug and now surround the solid stone walls and buildings where the legion will muster. The new link is:

I’ve enjoyed my Blogger site. I’ve actually been on it for over 5 years.

But you can only do so much with Blogger, and I wanted to create something that looks a little less cluttered. I also wanted my own domain. Google owns Blogger, and in the terms that are set out, they own all of your content too. If Google ever wanted to pull the plug on Writing the Past, there wouldn’t be anything I could do about it.

Mainly, I want the flexibility a proper website with different pages has to offer. I wanted a better experience for you, as readers and visitors, and for me as the owner and administrator.

The good news is that the Writing the Past blog will remain the same. I’ll stick to the same schedule for posts.

Comments should be easier too on the new site, so please do comment when you feel the urge. I do love our interactions!

For those of you who are subscribed to the mailing list, you won’t need to do anything. If all goes well, the RSS feed to your inboxes should transfer seamlessly from the old site to the new.

If you do stop receiving blog posts to your inbox, please let me know ASAP and we’ll remedy the situation.

On the new website there is a Contact Form where you can fill in the details to e-mail me about anything any time.

I would like to hear from all of you about what sort of content you would like to see on the blog. Tell me what historical topics you would like to know more about, and whether you would like to hear more about my research and writing processes, or more frequent updates on works in progress.

The new website has a special excerpts page where large excerpts of my books can be read. In future, I’ll also post some sneak peeks of works that have not yet been released.

It’s all very exciting, but the move from this site is, I suppose, bitter sweet. After five years here, there is a lot of content that will be hanging about. I will repost some of it on the new site, such as the World of Children of Apollo, which many of you more recent subscribers may not have read.

So, for now, thank you for sticking with me for so long on Blogger. I’m very much looking forward to welcoming you, and interacting with you, at the new Eagles and Dragons website!

Cheers, and thank you for reading.

See you on the other side!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Greek Mythology for Kids – A Lesson and a Story

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a Greek school teacher at the Toronto District School Board to come to her Saturday morning Greek language class to teach her kindergarten and grade one students about Greek Mythology.

At first I thought “Wow! Sure! That’ll be great.”

Then I started thinking about it. “Uh oh!”

I had no idea what I was going to talk about. The teacher knew I was an author and said she wanted me to tell a story.

Ok. But which story? Most of the stories in Greek Mythology, let’s face it, involve brutal killing, rapine, incest, and revenge.

Not really tales for the kiddies!

Oh dear…

I began flipping through some kids’ books from the public library and my own collection, serching for something that would work.

I knew I wanted to incorporate a little history lesson first. I mean, hey, I always try and get in the history! So, for that I thought I would try and get them to name the 12 Olympian Gods of ancient Greece. That would be fun.

When it came to the story, I decided on one that was clean, fun, and short. I also wanted one that involved names they might know.

I decided on the story of Athena and Poseidon’s contest for patronage of the city of Athens.
Phew. What a relief!

Now, I won’t lie. I was nervous. Yes, yes, I know. But their just kids!

True. But I’ve taught history to kids at museums and other places in previous jobs, and let me tell you, kids do not mince their words.

“This is BORING!” or “When’s snack time?” are common phrases that some kid in any given group will inevitably call out, no matter how exciting the subject.

Whether I still wanted to do it or not, Saturday arrived and I set off for the school. I had shaved, so as not to look scary, and I wore blue because it is soothing and chills people out. One hopes.

This was my strategy:

·      Do a small intro
·      Ask them to name ancient Greek gods they know until we hit all twelve
·      Tell them the story in animated fashion, using the chalk board to draw pictures
·      Have them work on the fantastic colouring sheets I had found of Athena and Poseidon

I’m happy to say, it all went well. At first the kids were like “Who is this stranger person standing at the back of the room?” But once I started talking about the gods and goddesses whose names were familiar, they began to warm to me. Referring to Disney’s Hercules certainly jogged their memories!

I was going to find my way! I was going to go the distance! Erm, sorry…

Anyway, if they didn’t know the names of a particular god, they certainly related to the trait of that god. Hestia may have been strange to them, but they could certainly understand her as Goddess of the Family (hearth).

So, we got through that, and because there were a couple kids in the audience who were named after Greek gods, they were quite chuffed.

Then I got a “When’s it snack time?” question which the teacher quickly stomped out.

When I told them it was time for a story, they hushed up and bent forward.

Ah, the power of storytelling!

I had written a retelling of the story of the contest for Athens beforehand, but reading from the paper would not have done it. I had memorized it, and told it loud and clear, with sound effects (if you grew up playing with Star Wars toys (as I did), there are always sound effects!).

Their little faces beamed with wonder and I knew I was doing all right. Thank you, Muses!

They even loved my rubbish drawings of the Acropolis, Poseidon’s trident, and Athena’s olive tree as I told the story.

Afterward, I passed around a book from the library on the Parthenon so that they could see the temple that was built on the Acropolis so very long after the events of that story, in honour of the winner of the contest, Athena Parthenos. They loved the visual!

When I mentioned colouring sheets, they all cheered, each wanting to colour both of the gods who were in the story.

I had to run down the hall to make more photocopies!

When the class was finished all the children smiled and thanked me, ‘Kyrios Adam Alexandros’, for coming and talking to them about Greek mythology. A few of the kids were indeed going to Greece this summer and said that they were going to tell their parents the story at dinner that day.

In my few experiences teaching children about history, whatever the period, it has always been a joy to have even a couple children leave the lesson happy, intrigued, and wanting more information. They’re small, but they’re like sponges, and if you teach it in an exciting way, you will reach them.

On this occasion, almost all the children, even the very quiet ones, left happy and excited, eager to show their parents their colouring sheets of Athena and Poseidon.

I needn’t have worried.

The tales of Greek mythology are indeed bloody and explicit, but there are some that can be related safely to a younger audience. There are also many kids’ books that contain tamed-down versions of the stories. One of my favourites is Atticus the Storyteller’s 100 Greek Myths by Lucy Coats and Anthony Lewis.

So, this summer, if you’re looking to entertain your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, with some stories from ancient Greece, don’t be afraid. Give it a go!

If you like, you can use my full retelling of the Contest for Athens story which I’ve put at the bottom of this post.

You’ll be amazed at how much these tales grab children’s attention. After all, they’ve done so for thousands of years!

Thank you for reading!

If you are interested in the ancient Greece colouring sheets, the best ones I found are at  They’re free!

Here are a few of the students' colouring pages that went up on the classroom wall:

Here is my retelling of The Contest for Athens:

The Contest for Athens (a story of Athena and Poseidon)

Once, a long, long time ago first king of Athens, King Cecrops (who was part man and part snake!) wanted to find a god who would be the protector of his beautiful city.

Two gods came forward to be the city’s protector: Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom, and Poseidon, the God of the Sea.

They almost fought over it, and just as they were about to attack each other, Athena, being the Goddess of Wisdom, suggested that they should hold a contest for the city. With King Cecrops as the judge, they set up the contest and decided that whoever gave the best gift to the city would win.

A huge crowd of people gathered with King Cecrops as the judge, and they went up to the Acropolis to present their gifts to the city.

Poseidon went first. He lifted his massive trident (three pointed spear) and struck the earth with it. Where the spear struck the ground, a spring of water gushed out of the rock. The people loved it, but as they went closer to taste the water, they discovered that it was salty. Don’t forget that Poseidon was ruler of the sea and the water he controlled was salty, just like the seas he ruled.

Then it was Athena’s turn. She quietly knelt on the rocky ground and buried something. Everyone watched. Everyone was silent. Then, a brilliant green shoot began to grow out of the rock. It grew, and grew, and branches and leaves appeared. It was an olive tree, full of beautiful silver-green leaves, and plump purple olives. The crowd gasped.

This turned out to be a much more useful gift. It gave the people of the city, not only the olives themselves as food, but also the olive oil for their lamps and for cooking their food, as well as the wood from the olive tree to build their boats and houses.

King Cecrops declared Athena the winner of the contest, and the protector of the city which became known as Athens, or in Greek, Athina.

Many, many years later, a Temple of Athena was built on the Acropolis. It is called the Parthenon. This temple had statues of the contest as decoration, and showed Poseidon with his trident, and Athena with her olive tree.


A few weeks ago, Eagles and Dragons offered free review copies of Children of Apollo, Killing the Hydra, and Immortui. 

I'm glad so many of you decided to take advantage of this Summer offer!

If you are a Kobo customer, you will have noticed that they do not yet provide the ability to leave reviews. This is changing however.

Kobo has allowed its authors to use a special link which we can provide to our readers where they can leave reviews that will be gathered and posted when the changes are made to the on-line store.

If you are Kobo reader and enjoyed my books, please consider going to the following link to leave a rating and review:

Thanks very much for your support and all the kind messages.

Cheers and see you next week!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Timelessness of Arthurian Tales

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a new series I had started watching called MERLIN.

As I said then, I was shocked by what I perceived as the ridiculous aspects of the show and how much they had changed the Arthurian cycle. However, after the first few episodes of the show I began to see its qualities and the wonderful ways in which it revived the Arthurian legend for a new generation.

This past weekend, I finished watching the fifth and final season of this BBC Series.

I’m actually a little sad that the series is done. I’m also surprised at how attached I became to many of the characters, especially the characters of Merlin and Arthur whose bantering, odd, loyal relationship is the central theme and strength of the series.

We all know that Arthur dies in the end. Of course he does. But I found myself hoping that maybe, just maybe, Arthur would survive. I wanted him to! The series had changed so many other aspects of the legend, why not change that? End things on a positive, uplifting note, right?

No. The death of Arthur in story is something that is inevitable, even for a modern interpretation. It’s the death of Arthur that shows the essential elements of tragedy, sacrifice, and hope for the future that are so crucial to Arthurian tales.

In MERLIN, the actors Colin Morgan and Bradley James manage to pull off an emotional, gut-wrenching final episode that is, to me, a worthy addition to the Arthurian canon.

After watching that final episode, I found myself dealing with a familiar feeling of sadness and longing in the pit of my stomach. It’s something I always feel when I finish watching or reading the story of Arthur and his knights.

This experience reminded me why I love Arthurian stories so much, and why I will never tire of them.

I grew up with the stories of Arthur. In fact, they are a big part of the person I have become, the ideals I hold to be true and important. They speak to me on many levels. They are timeless.

Historically, those few decades straddling the 5th and 6th centuries A.D gave rise, in my opinion, to some of the most important and moving literature and literary traditions since Homer composed the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Whether ‘Camelot’ was a late medieval castle, or a re-fortified Iron Age hill fort at South Cadbury doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant if the sword Excalibur rose out of the water in the hand of an ancient priestess or water nymph, or if it was cast as a solid piece of iron in a stone mould by a highly skilled smith.

What matters in the Arthurian cycle are the people, and the journeys that they take.

When I think about Arthurian legend, I think about a young boy facing his destiny, I think of lovers facing insurmountable odds, I think about brave and gifted people working to better the land they love.

When I think of these stories I think about ideals of chivalry that, real or imagined, are a bright light in a world that seems to be crumbling apart, pinioned as it is between the classical and early medieval worlds.

When I travelled to Glastonbury, Cadbury Castle, Birdoswald, Wroxeter, Dinas Emrys, Tintagel, or Caerleon, I wasn’t focussed so much on the archaeology and whether it supported the legends of those places.

What pulled me into those places, what grabbed my imagination and would not let go, were the stories and people associated with those places. Therein lies the true magic.

I’ll never forget the names of Balin and Balan, Eric and Enide, Sir Gawain and Sir Perceval, Tristan and Isolde, The Lady of Shalott, Lancelot, Guinevere, Uther, and Arthur, and so many more.

If my heart were a book shelf, there would be a scroll with a special space dedicated to every chapter of the Arthurian cycle.

I feel like I’ve watched the barge carrying Arthur’s body sail to Avalon countless times, and yet the cycle is always reborn inside of me, my mind, and my imagination.

Someday, when I’m ready, I’ll write my own version of the cycle in as historically accurate a way as possible. This has always been my goal.

But, even more so, I will write my own offering to the traditions in a way that the most inspiring aspects of the tales come to the fore.

It feels like an impossible task, but then, no quest is intended to be easy.

Thank you for reading.

Which are your favourite Arthurian tales? Share yours in the Comments box below!